Permission to view someone’s home for sale comes with some rules of etiquette.
Even if you are visiting an open house, you need to be aware of things that you may normally take for granted.
Preparing ahead will help alleviate confrontation or the need to ask these questions when you are in someone else’s home.
1. Is it okay to consume snacks or drinks? Unless you are prepared to clean up or pay for a spillage accident, have your refreshments before you enter a home. If a seller has left cookies out for the showing, feel free to take one and eat it in the kitchen.
2. Can I use the bathroom? If it’s urgent, ask for permission. You never know if the water has been shut off. Schedule stops to take care of your personal needs before visiting.
3. Is looking into closets acceptable? Look all you want, but don’t disturb what you see.
4. What about taking photos? Before you click the camera, first ask if it’s okay. This is especially important if you intend to post your photos publicly and the seller has personal effects that they don’t want promoted.
5. Can I sit on the furniture? This is not a good idea unless you have a physical need to do so. Ask for permission if you need to sit for health reasons.
Call or email us with any of your burning house-hunting questions. We are always here to help and make sure you have a pleasant experience.
When the big moving day arrives, you will want to be as organized and pre-prepared as possible. Many tasks are best managed when your new home is vacant. Here is a moving checklist to help you navigate your move.
1. Since it is likely that the seller will turn off the utilities upon closing, contact the utility companies and have the utilities turned on in your name ahead of closing. Be sure to include setting up your Internet and cable services at the same time.
2. Make sure the vacant house has been cleaned to your standards. If not, hire a cleaning service if you don’t want to do it yourself. At an average cost of $150, you may want to leave it to a professional.
3. For closing day, arrange for a locksmith to come and change the locks. Often, the locksmith will only have to rekey the existing locksets at a reduced expense.
4. Any planned remodeling or renovations are best accomplished when the house is vacant. It is much easier than you having to live around construction debris.
5. If repairs need to be done, line up a handyman to get the work done right after you close.
6. Be aware of what safety items need to be in place prior to taking occupancy. Have a fire extinguisher for each level of the home. Ensure that the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
7. Prior to closing, have a walk-through with the seller or your home inspector so you can be familiar with the electrical service and water shutoff valves in an emergency. Get instructions on any other working systems of the home.
8. Have your mail forwarded and change your address profiles where needed.
Contact us for an even more extensive checklist to help with your move.
There is no defined time that is best to buy or sell a home because there are a few influencing factors that will determine when it is right for you. Our goal is to keep you informed on these factors so you can make the decision that’s best for you.
If you know what the market activity is at any given time, it should dictate when you move forward with your planned real estate venture. The supply and demand of homes will determine the availability and price. The statistics that we provide you will help you select the right time to buy or sell your home.
As a seller, you want to list your home when available inventory is low so you can entertain more buyers and be more aggressive with pricing. As a buyer, you want to shop for a home when there is plenty of inventory to pick from. More homes on the market means more ability to negotiate the price.
Interest rates will influence your timing and also determine which home you can afford. Low rates allow sellers to be more assertive on pricing because more buyers can qualify to buy their homes.
Buying or selling a home in the late spring or early fall is generally a good choice but not always the most advantageous. There is more competition, so consider listing your home during less market activity. As a buyer, you will have fewer buyers to compete with while you can still see a reasonable inventory of homes.
If you are wondering when the best time is for you to buy or sell a home, call or email us, and we’ll update you on the present market activity and how it may affect your timing. We are always here to help.
When you begin your house-hunting adventure, what should you be looking out for? Here’s a checklist to take along with you when you view prospective homes.
Grade. Check the grade of the property that surrounds the house. Walk up to the house and take note if the grade slopes away from the structure. Any puddling or sloping toward the house could mean poor drainage.
Roof. While outside, stand back and check the roof for any shingle damage and poorly maintained gutters.
Plumbing. A quick and easy check for plumbing issues is to run the faucets to see if there is good water pressure. While running the faucets, take a look under the sinks and check for drips or past water damage. To avoid other possible expensive leak repairs, check walls and ceilings for discoloration that could likely be from water leaks.
Pest control. Hidden areas such as basements and attics can be home to unwanted pests and insects, so include a visual inspection of these areas.
Structural. Needed structural repairs can be noted by checking for floor and wall cracks and out-of-square door frames.
Electrical. A quick check of a home’s electrical wiring can be done by running some of the appliances with the lights on. Any flickering could indicate wiring or electrical service issues.
Please give us a call or email us prior to starting out. Our experience will help guide you through this checklist to help you avoid unanticipated and costly issues in the future.
A home purchase is likely the biggest investment you will ever make. To protect your investment and your personal health and safety, you want to be aware of red flags that could signal significant problems with the home that you wish to buy.
Structural red flags are the most serious because they threaten the integrity of the home. Look for large basement floor cracks and bumps. Doors and windows that are out of alignment, along with steps that have separated from the foundation, are all indications of settling of the home.
Mold-related issues are often detected in older homes with deferred maintenance and may not have easy fixes. Keep an eye out for patches of black mold in the house as well as any mold-related odor, unventilated bathrooms or bubbled paint.
Even an untrained eye can uncover red flags associated with destructive pests. Powdery residue around wood elements, grinding sounds, and hollow areas in floors and walls are indicators of wood-destroying pests. Droppings and bug body parts are also signs of insect infestation.
Defective roofing can present you with several threats to a home’s integrity. Beware of a roof that is over 20 years old and displays cracked and missing shingles or has evidence of previous repairs. Once inside the home, keep an eye on the ceiling, where there may be staining or patchy paint.
Our team will help point out red flags like these so your home-buying process will result in fewer risks to your health, safety and bank account.
Experience will be your best ally when it comes to avoiding pitfalls when buying your first home. We are here to help you avoid these most common mistakes.
1. A real estate agent who doesn’t have your best interests at the forefront or the right tools and resources to assist in getting the job done effectively won’t likely produce good results. Be selective in choosing who will represent you.
2. Relying on a lender just because of a past banking relationship may not yield the best rate and terms for your loan. Explore the competition.
3. In a hot seller’s market, hesitating to put in an offer on a suitable home could mean losing a rare buying opportunity and creating uncertainty when it comes to future prospective properties.
4. Not staying within your budget and moving forward with a higher-priced home can cause you to pinch pennies to make ends meet and trigger unnecessary anxiety.
5. If you are in the midst of a seller’s market and you have not been preapproved for a loan, your offer is in a very weak position. You risk losing every buying opportunity until you do get preapproved.
6. You will miss valuable buying opportunities if you make your home search parameters too broad. Don’t spend too much time looking at properties that really aren’t for you. Narrowing down what features of a home are on your bucket list will allow you to home in on those properties from the start.
We are here to ensure you have a smooth home-buying experience. Call or email us and let us help you avoid these mistakes and other potential pitfalls.
While renting a home gives you the freedom of picking up stakes and moving whenever you want, realizing the dream of home ownership can give you far more benefits, the most obvious being the growth of your nest egg coming from normal market appreciation and the additional equity increase that you gain from making home improvements over time.
Home ownership can also enhance your financial status with some of the following tax advantages.
1. Making monthly principal and interest payments on your loan may qualify you for a mortgage interest deduction, which reduces your income tax liability proportionately.
2. Owning your own home means paying property taxes and, with some limitations, may give you an additional tax deduction on your income taxes.
3. If your loan includes a mortgage insurance premium and your income qualifies, that premium is deductible and also lowers your tax liability.
4. A percentage of some home improvements can increase your tax deductions, especially if they are eco-friendly. Solar panels and wind turbines are examples.
5. Having a home-based business and the improvements that are associated with that business may also contribute to decreasing your tax liability. The square footage percentage of the portion of your home where you conduct business may give you additional tax deductions.
If you feel that owning your own home will benefit your financial future, then we are here to take you down that path.
As a home buyer, you can optimize your home buying if you move forward with your search during the off-season of where you wish to live. In very hot climates, the off-season will be during the summer, while in most other parts of the country, it would be during the winter months. Here are a few reasons you may want to consider buying your home out of season.
1. A seller who lists his or her house during the off-season is more likely to be very motivated to get the home sold. Therefore, you can benefit because the seller will be more willing to negotiate on price and terms, especially if you present a fair offer.
2. There are usually fewer buyers when you decide to shop when it’s not peak market time. Fewer buyers mean less competition and no price wars. Buyers tend to be more focused on the holidays during the winter, while communities in hotter climates draw virtually no competing home-buying snowbirds during the summer.
3. Since the off-season can mask the usually attractive curb appeal of a home, it can also provide a more realistic viewing of a home without the gingerbread. You can better see the “bones” of a home with minimal landscaping and possible deferred maintenance.
4. The durability of a prospective property can be better tested when you shop off-season since the mechanics of the home are being put to use on a daily basis. The furnace output is being tested to its maximum capability in cooler winter zones, while the air conditioning is being constantly challenged in the desert climates during the summer. The insulation and soundness of doors and windows are also best evaluated during these times.
Even though the market traditionally slows down during the off-season, we are here 365 days a year to improve the results of your home-buying experience.
In a world of scamming via Internet connections and communications, we want to warn you of the wire fraud that could be a product of sending or receiving emails that takes root during the closing process in a real estate transaction where large sums of money are being transferred to consummate home sales.
Once scammers gain access to a real estate agent’s or title company’s email account, they can deceive home buyers by “forging” emails to falsely convey closing money wiring instructions. If successful in convincing a buyer to send closing funds to an account other than that of the title company’s financial institution, the scam won’t likely be discovered until the funds cannot be recovered.
It is important to protect yourself from this potentially huge loss of your life savings. Whenever you receive an email from a title company or your agent with wiring instructions for closing, you always need to call the source to confirm the content of the instructions that you have received. Typically, real estate agents should not be in receipt of wiring instructions because it provides another avenue for potential fraud.
Most title companies protect themselves and their clients by communicating wiring instructions via encrypted email once the buyer calls to ask for those instructions. While nothing is foolproof, email encryption helps assure the secure transfer of closing funds.
We are aware of the perils associated with this part of the closing process and are here to assist you in the verification process. We can direct you to title companies with encryption capabilities.
To help avoid being a victim of homebuyer anxiety, we would like to give you some pointers to better prepare yourself for what lies ahead when you set out to buy a home.
A good starting point is to go to your lender of choice and get preapproved for a loan. In doing so, two major things will be accomplished. You will know what kind and price of home that you can afford to buy, and you will be able to accompany any offer to purchase with a loan preapproval letter, which adds strength to your offer.
Before you set out on your search, if you list the characteristics of a home that will suit your family, your time will be rewarded more quickly because we can help you target amenity-specific homes. In today’s market of limited inventory, you want to be mentally prepared to pull the trigger when you view a home that fits your needs. Hesitation can result in missing out on the property that really works for you.
To assist in the decision-making, evaluate your funds on hand so you can afford to do fix-its or be able to enhance a new build home if that’s what you would choose to purchase.
Have your yellow pad filled out with these items when you call upon us to partner with you in the homebuying process. By understanding your needs and what you qualify for, we can then move forward efficiently, meet your needs and not miss your best opportunities. We can help you determine what is right for you, given your individual financial circumstances and goals. Call or email us today.
What better way to kick off your house hunt than to log on to your computer to “virtually” check out the availability of homes that will complement your lifestyle? We have tuned into the online needs of buyers, putting comprehensive property information at their fingertips. Search filters, property data, and media production quality are better and easier to access than ever before.
Your virtual house hunt enables you to insert yourself into a prospective home without physically being there, all through virtual tours, 3D images, a multitude of still photos, floor plans, and written descriptions that accurately depict the property you are viewing. Not only can a comprehensive online presentation leave you feeling like you just physically toured the home, it will also give you a great picture of the exterior spaces and the neighborhood and how the house is located by incorporating satellite imaging links.
Be aware of possible “red flags” that result from omissions in the virtual viewing. Missing views of exteriors or some living spaces may be a sign that a property has some deficiencies. This will be an opportunity to have us investigate what is not in view so you can decide if the property is worth pursuing.
Your online tour will often provide uploaded seller disclosures, giving you further insight into a home’s physical being. After you have completed your virtual house hunt, we can help you coordinate safe viewing appointments of the properties that you feel will fulfill your needs. We’re here to help you through every step of the process.
Before you begin your hunt for a new home, even if it’s online, we suggest that you do some important information gathering ahead of time so that the fruits of your labor will be more immediate and more satisfying.
The place that you will call “home” will be the result of understanding what your needs are now and into the future. Condo or loft living may be your chosen lifestyle if you don’t want to deal with much maintenance and have no outdoor living requirements.
If so, be sure and note that there will be added monthly housing costs via homeowners association fees. To give yourself or your family room to grow, a detached single-family home with ample outdoor spaces may head your list of criteria.
“What location is best?” Probably the most important part of your information gathering will be how you answer this question. The value of your new home will be influenced by its location, so you will need to analyze your needs regarding how and where you work and play.
The type and locale of a home will determine your overall cost of ownership. Will it be city life, country living, or nesting in the suburbs? Additionally, you will want to include the cost of home maintenance and commuting costs as part of your cost of living fact-finding.
Once you decide whether you are a candidate for a remodeling project or if a newer home better suits your way of life and patience, you will want to get prequalified for a loan that is tailored for the type and location of the home that works for you.
Please remember that we are here to make your information gathering easier so that the end result is a home that is a perfect fit for you and your family.
It’s time to prepare for the closing on the purchase of your first home. Before you are handed the keys, there will be several tasks to do so you can set the stage for being a homeowner.
Speaking of keys, you should change the locks, which can be a DIY project for you, or contact a locksmith.
Notifying all of your contacts of your new address should also be on your task list. An email blast will accomplish this very efficiently.
Having all of the utilities on and in your name the moment you flick on the switch will assure power, hot water, heat, and AC to make your first night comfortable.
Be sure to allow a few days of cushion when switching the utilities in case the title company and lender expedite an early closing.
Prior to closing, familiarize yourself with the amenities that are near your neighborhood so you know where the nearest hardware store and grocery stores are located to get you through the moving-in process.
Create a repair fund as soon as you are under contract to take care of the maintenance your home will eventually require.
Our resources are here to guide you through your task list, and we are just a phone call away.
It is not a given that every sale will close on the contracted closing date. With this in mind, it is important to have contingency plans to cover any delays that will hinder moving plans for both buyer and seller. The buyer who wants to move in prior to a delayed closing and the seller who accommodates such a request may find themselves in a predicament if things don’t go according to plan. Keep in mind that even if there is a written agreement to allow an early move-in, a legal dispute can still evolve from the unforeseen.
Early occupancy by a buyer means that the seller will have to maintain insurance on the property until closing, but there will be a potentially costly change to that policy. The new coverage would be landlord insurance to cover the now “tenant-occupied” home. Part of the closing process is the funding of the buyer’s loan and a final check of clear title. If a final verification of employment is not in order for the underwriter, funding will not occur and may cause the lender to withdraw the loan commitment. If the final title check reveals a last-minute recorded encumbrance against the property, the sale closing could be indefinitely delayed. These are all good reasons for early occupancy to be avoided.
While the buyer benefits the most from an early move-in, the seller potentially suffers great loss in the event of any buyer default. The seller will have vacated their home, thinking it was sold. This, coupled with the house possibly having been altered or damaged by the buyer during early occupancy, could create unanticipated financial hardship. The seller still owns the house and remains liable for activities on the property.
In any of these scenarios, it wouldn’t be long before buyer and seller would find themselves entangled in a legal battle over monetary damages. The message is loud and clear. Both the buyer and seller need to plan their moves with a flexible timeline and avoid early buyer possession in the event unexpected delays cause a late closing.
If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, let me know what I can do to help make that transition as smooth as possible for you.
Before your real estate agent places the “For Sale” sign in your front yard, you want to be sure that no stone has been left unturned when preparing your home for marketing. The “To Do” checklist that your agent gives you is created to help protect you from the unknown once you are under contract to sell. It is also a great checklist for taking care of everyday preventative maintenance of your home.
One of the key items on your list will be the recommendation to obtain a professional structural pest inspection prior to listing instead of waiting for an acceptable offer to see if your home is the subject of hidden pest or water damage.
For a fee of $100-$200, a state-licensed pest inspector will scrutinize everything from the rafters down to the foundation, looking for signs of active wood-boring invaders and/or dry rot.
Termites and certain beetles can be causing behind-the-scenes damage to the structure, while water could be causing wood to rot where it is not properly protected. Once the inspection is complete, you will receive a report with suggested remedies and estimated costs for any areas of active infestation or dry rot. If and when you want to correct any problems is up to you.
Having this information before you move ahead with an offer gives you great advantages when selling your home. You will know the cost to get a clear pest report prior to agreeing on a selling price. Your buyer’s loan approval may depend on having a clear report so closing delays will be avoided.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the home selling or buying process. I’m here to be your resource.
You want to make smart financial choices for your future. Do those include buying a home? Here are five financial benefits that point to yes.
1. Tax breaks: As a homeowner, you may qualify for tax benefits. These deductions can help offset other costs of homeownership. Potential deductions include the interest on your mortgage, property taxes, and home equity lines of credit.
2. Stability: If you take out a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know what payments to expect for the life of the loan. Rent, on the other hand, often increases annually. When you own a home, you also typically have more control over expenses such as utilities, so you can make choices that encourage efficiency and save money each month.
3. Forced savings: Each month, as you pay down your mortgage, you are adding equity. This can be an excellent way to build wealth. In the future, you can sell the home for a profit or borrow against the equity to obtain needed funds. Medical emergencies, college tuition, and home repairs or renovations are common uses for these funds.
4. Good health: A mortgage looks good on a credit report and can help you establish a healthy score. As you faithfully pay off the loan, your score can increase. This can prove helpful in obtaining lower insurance rates and qualifying for lower rates on future purchases.
5. Final payment: When you buy a home, there will come a day when you no longer have to make your mortgage payment. It will eventually be your property, free and clear. (Time to celebrate!) This scenario is much different than paying rent, which will continue for a lifetime.
Are you wondering if a home purchase makes sense for your financial future? I’d be happy to discuss these and other benefits and help you determine if now is a good time for you to pursue homeownership.
Whether you’re thinking about buying or are already in the market for a new home, make sure you ask yourself these questions before making a move:
1. What are my “musts”? As you start your home search or are considering a particular home, make a list of your “must-haves.” These are your top priorities. They might include a certain number of bedrooms, a garage, or a specific school district. Note which items are not up for negotiation so you can refer back to this list as you look at homes.
To maximize your options, limit your “must” list to items you can’t easily change after purchasing the home. For example, you can’t change the home’s location, but you could easily switch out the flooring.
2. How long do I plan to stay? Consider various life factors that might influence how long you’ll live in your next home. Will you likely relocate due to a job transfer? Are you getting ready to settle down in the next couple of years? Is your family growing?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if it’s a good time to buy and, if so, what size and style of home to include in your search.
3. How’s my credit? If you’re planning to take out a mortgage to buy a home, your credit score will be a crucial factor. Lenders look at this number to determine the amount of money they are willing to loan you and at what interest rate.
Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Scores between 750 and 850 are considered excellent, while scores lower than 650 are considered weak. You can get a free copy of your credit report annually from the three consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Examine these reports carefully to determine if everything is correct and if you’ll need to raise your credit score before you can qualify for a home.
If you need assistance with your credit, feel free to give me a call. I can provide additional resources to help put you in a buy-ready position.
If you wanted to buy all the homes on the US real estate market, you’d need around $780 billion, according to Realtor.com. To pay off all the outstanding student loan debt in the US, you’d need $1.5 trillion.
Why is student loan debt nearly double today’s real estate market? It’s because almost 43 million Americans are shouldered with student loan debt, and this burden is blocking many of them from homeownership.
This statistic isn’t surprising when we compare the typical down payment for a home to average student loan amounts: $26,000 versus $34,500. Twenty-six percent of Millennials say student loans are the main obstacle they face when trying to save up for a down payment on a home.
Fortunately, there are many options for buyers in this situation. If you’re among them, here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the right track.
Improve your debt-to-income ratio: This ratio is key to qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders want to make sure you can handle the additional house debt with your current income. To improve your ratio, pay down (or pay off) any debts where you can, and increase your income if possible. Consolidating your student loans may also help.
Improve your credit score: Your credit score is another critical number that lenders consider. To increase your score, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new lines of credit, and lower your use of credit. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check your credit report at least once each year to ensure it is accurate. If there are any errors, report them to the credit bureau immediately.
If you or someone you know is facing student loan debt and are interested in learning more about your options, I can connect you to a mortgage professional who can help you make owning a home a reality.
You might be surprised to discover the hottest zip codes of 2019. The real estate market saw some new trends this year that caused a shift in hot spots. Metropolitan giants like New York and San Francisco are no longer leading the pack. To find the fastest-selling homes in America, we have to set our sights on smaller locales.
Realtor.com reports that Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boise, Idaho took the top three slots in 2019 for hottest zip codes. The rankings are based on how quickly homes sell and how frequently they are viewed on Realtor.com. The top ten list, which also includes zip codes in New Hampshire and Kansas, demonstrate growing trends in the real estate market.
One of the most significant shifts is the influx to areas outside the big cities. With prices in the Big Apple and other metropolises beyond many buyers’ budgets, home seekers are looking to markets where housing is less dense and is smaller and more affordable.
Millennials are a big part of the new trends. Making up the largest percentage of Americans taking on mortgages, millennials are seeking strong local job markets and affordable homes.
According to Realtor.com, millennial salaries in the top ten zip codes are, on average, 13 percent higher than the national median millennial income. Additionally, job growth projections for these areas are exceeding national growth projections. Lastly, the average home price in these areas is significantly lower, at $272,000, than the national median price of $316,000. If you’d like to learn more about current housing trends, I’m just an email or phone call away.
A home purchase is likely one of the largest financial investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s important to get this one right. For the best financial outcomes, avoid the following mistakes.
Taking on too much: You think you’ve found your dream home, but it’s outside your housing budget. So, you try to stretch that budget and simply take out a bigger mortgage. This decision can be disastrous. Taking on more debt than you can afford will leave you struggling to pay utilities and zap any other financial goals. A good rule of thumb is to limit the cost of your house payment (including taxes, insurance and any HOA fees) to 25 percent of your take-home pay.
Skipping the preapproval: Getting preapproved will help you with not taking on too much, as it will provide guidelines for what you can realistically afford. It will also give you a financial advantage when negotiating for a home. Sellers prefer to work with buyers that they know can afford their home, so get preapproved before you shop, so you can submit your pre-approval with any offers.
Skimping on the down payment: The more money you pay up front, the less interest you’ll pay over time. If you save at least 20 percent for a down payment, you can also avoid PMI, which is a fee to cover insurance that protects lenders when a buyer has little equity in the home. And don’t forget to include closing costs and moving expenses as you save up for your purchase.
Going it alone: An experienced agent helps you determine a reasonable price for any home you are considering. We can also negotiate the best price for the home. Plus, the seller pays the agent’s commission, so you get all the expertise at no cost to you. When you’re ready to start your home search, just give me a call!